Today, roughly six billion of the world’s seven billion people now have a mobile device. Mobiles serve as our personal communication hubs, connection points to the global internet and powerful tools to access information. In many places, inexpensive mobile phones have become invaluable substitutes to traditional information and communications technologies (ICTs) and vastly outnumber computers.
On Sept 26, 2013, FHI 360 co-hosted an all-day event entitled Mobiles! What Have We Learned? Where Are We Going? The gathering brought together over 150 leading practitioners in mobiles for development (M4D). The event itself was co-organized by DAI, Development Gateway, FHI 360, IREX, and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).
Over the past decade, the international development community has worked to harness M4D approaches and technology, resulting in thousands of pilot projects, interventions and public–private partnerships. The goals of these initiatives have ranged from overcoming barriers of resource access, encouraging healthier behaviors and democratizing education to creating bottom-of-the-pyramid markets, to name a few.
At the event, Gustav Praekelt of Praekelt Foundation delivered a keynote summary that illustrated how big technical and social challenges have been addressed, making the achievement of scale more possible than ever. He also noted, however, that cost, compatibility of different technical standards and coordination between organizations continue to create challenges. “We need some wins to show that we can work together,” said Praekelt. “If we can solve email in the 1970s, then we can get rid of the horrible technical silos we have today.”
Led by Wayan Vota, a technology expert focused on ICT, “Mobiles!” featured a lively, unconventional format that favored in-the-room engagement over pitch-oriented presentations. The event itself was highly anticipated, with 542 people applying to attend (for just 150 initial slots) and 145 people applying for 15 “lightning round” speaking slots. Participants debated over some of the major themes that emerged during the day:
- How do we break down the sector silos for more integrated approaches to mobiles for development?
- How do we understand our end user better?
- Are there too many pilots or too few?
- What are investors looking for when investing in the M4D space?
Post-event survey data indicated nearly universal approval for the quality of the presentations, the lively format and the intimate access to peers from other organizations. The buzz didn’t just stay in the room. According to social media metrics tool Keyhole, 384 people posted event-related information on Twitter (#m4d2013), reaching an audience of nearly 633,000 people.
To review the videos and slide decks of the lightning talks and Big Ideas presentations, click the individual links below. You can view all of the videos on Vimeo here.
Morning Lightning Talk 1:
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Afternoon Lightning Talk 1:
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Big Ideas 1:
Verone Mankou, CEO, VMK Tech